The Blog

Why the General Public Can't Tell the Difference Between Fact and Fiction

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.


By David Jones, Managing Director, Astus UK

You could be mistaken for thinking you’re stuck in some sort of dream – or rather nightmare – world where everything is upside down and the wrong way around.

Lies are “alternative facts” whilst truths are falsehoods; male egos are welcome, yet women’s rights are not; white supremacy is just and diversity is theft.

But how did we get here? When did we, as people, stop being able to tell the difference between fact and fiction?

Perhaps it’s easy to blame scripted reality TV shows like Gordan Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares for skewing the general public’s understanding of how businesses are run. Such shows set up ‘business’ and ‘personality’ as two different, opposing things, whilst being ruthless and impersonal in dealing with others is rewarded. Most business leaders are quick to remind the audience: this is fiction.

But when coupled with actual events such as Michael Gove’s Machiavellian manoeuvres after the EU referendum, or the bitter spectacle of Trump vs Clinton, real life doesn’t seem that far removed from the fictions of reality TV anymore.

It’s more, however, than seeing the likes of ‘House of Cards’ play out in real life – the actors in these scenes aren’t just opportunistic, but come across as incompetent to boot. Whether it’s Angela Merkel suddenly backtracking on her controversial open door asylum policy or Trump’s reaction to his inauguration crowd, the public might be forgiven for thinking that our leaders are simply blagging it.

If that’s true, then can we really believe the narratives coming from these establishments? If not, then what can we believe in?

This confusion looks set to get worse before it gets better, with fake news gaining momentum and even the White House claiming contradictory facts as true in a bizarre manifestation of Orwell’s doublethink.

If people in traditional positions of power aren’t going to project a responsible image, it may be up to the business community to take the lead and promote the sustainable, even-handed values.

The crux of the matter is that successful businesses, just like successful societies, depend on mutually beneficial partnerships, and the age of social media hasn’t changed the role of face-to-face networking or word-of-mouth recommendation to facilitate them.

Those relationships mean listening to your customer’s needs and adding value – not obfuscating or confusing them. You need knowledge of your product, service and sector, and that means you need facts – real, tangible facts.

The continual unravelling of public trust in corporations, and the rise of highly competitive ‘grass-roots’ challenger brands, signifies how businesses have neglected the importance of transparency and delivery of promises. That is as true for customer services as it is for staff retention, investor engagement, and maintaining countless other relationships.

More importantly for wider society, running business in this way will surely promote these basic, fundamental ideas throughout a workforce, throughout an industry, throughout culture.

Big changes start small, and they start with people – not Presidents or Prime Ministers.

About Astus

Astus Group is the UK’s biggest media barter company. It was launched in 2003 with the aim of pioneering a new ethical approach to media barter in the UK which focussed on delivery first and on positioning barter as an innovative business process involving first line stock rather than distressed inventory. Astus’ approach has transformed perceptions of media barter in the UK, which is now seen as smart business practice by companies from SMEs to large corporates.

For more information go to

Popular in the Community